November 22, 2013

As UN Talks Close in Warsaw, Climate Activists Turn to Challenging the Fossil Fuel Industry

WARSAW, Poland — As the latest round of UN Climate Talks (COP19) conclude in Warsaw without significant progress on key issues of finance and reducing emissions, people around the world are coming together to stand with the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan and challenge the fossil fuel industry that is at the root of the climate crisis. [1]

“Typhoon Haiyan, and the failure of delegates in Warsaw to make serious progress on a new climate treaty, has sparked a wave of action across the globe,” said May Boeve, Executive Director. “There’s a new sense of momentum in the fight against the fossil fuel industry. People know their future is at stake.”

In the last week, over 600,000 people have signed onto petitions, including on, to show solidarity with the Philippines and call for immediate climate action. On Tuesday, and Avaaz partnered with lead Filipino negotiator Yeb Saño to deliver the signatures directly to the UN conference.

Beginning this Thursday, communities around the world are hosting candlelit vigils, using the message #WeStandWithYou to continue to push for progress. The vigils are taking place in countries around the world, from the United States to South Africa to the Philippines. At many universities, students are pushing for fossil fuel divestment at their vigils, asking their institution to “divest from disaster.” [2]

“What’s even more painful than the increasing casualties after a storm is that our country, that has little to do with climate change, is bearing the brunt of the big polluters’ neglected responsibility to cut emissions,” said Zephanie Danieles, Southeast Asia Coordinator, based in the Philippines.

In Warsaw, organizations took their own action on Thursday afternoon by walking out on the negotiations to protest the lack of progress and corporate takeover of the process. The Polish government not only allowed corporate sponsors for the talks, but co-sponsored a major coal summit during the negotiations. helped organize a protest outside the coal meeting last weekend and joined today’s walkout. [3]

Earlier Thursday morning, and over 70 groups released a letter requesting the UN and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to enact new rules to protect the climate talks from corporate influence. The letter cited the example of the World Health Organization’s decision to regulate the tobacco industry in international health negotiations. [4]

“It’s powerful to see groups from across civil society coming to the same conclusion that in order to keep open any hope of an international climate treaty, we need to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry,” said Jamie Henn,’s Communications Director in Warsaw. “By walking out of COP19, we’re walking into a fight with the real enemies to progress: the coal, oil and gas companies that have a stranglehold over our governments and economy.”

In the months after Warsaw, will be expanding its fossil fuel divestment campaign, continuing the fight against major dirty energy projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and working to strengthen the global grassroots climate movement through initaitives like Global Power Shift. [5]

“At present any potential roadmap to a legally binding agreement by 2015 is being obstructed and overshadowed by the power of the fossil fuel industry,” said Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Manager for “For us, this is the real conversation we need to be having otherwise real solutions will never materialize. This conference has served to really crystallize the situation.”



[1] Super Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in world history. More than 4 million people have been displaced and around 10,000 are feared dead. There are several ways in which climate change can affect typhoons like Haiyan, and will continue to do so in the future, including: increasing sea surface temperatures, adding more energy to storms; increasing the amount of precipitation associated with tropical cyclones, because warm air holds more water than cold; and, causing sea level rise which increases the destructive power of storm surges.



[4] Letter available here:

[5] Further information on the GoFossilFree divestment campaign can be found here:

Further information on the Global Power Shift can be found here: